Cuban hash, called Picadillo, is one of the most popular dishes in Cuba and after making this little feast several times, we are also head over heels in love. Most often we prepare this little feast with pork, but sometimes we use ground turkey thighs from free range and air chilled birds.
Cuban home cooks begin with a sofrito, which is a traditional base for many Caribbean dishes. Made of onions, red or green bell peppers and sometimes celery, they are simmered until married. And then Cuban cooks add dried oregano, dried thyme, bay leaves, cumin seeds, coriander, cayenne, black pepper and annatto seeds… this mixture is called Sazon powder. They then finish this classic feast with simmered ground meats, potato, tomato paste, olive tapenade and raisins. Served over rice, with black beans on the side, it’s an umami explosion.
1 1/4 pound ground pork or ground turkey thigh
1/2 cup olive tapenade (we use Chalkidiki and Calamata tapenade, mixed together, the recipe is below)
1/2 heaping cup whole small green olives stuffed with pimentos (we use Manzanilla olives)
3/4 cup rich chicken broth (we boil down the bones of a rotisserie chicken)
I red and 1 green bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces, a little bigger than usual, about 1 inch
1 yellow sweet onion, diced the same size as the peppers (you might also use red onion for another layer of flavor)
1 cup canned tomatoes (we use San Marzano tomatoes from Italy) or fresh from the garden
3 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup raisins (for pork we use golden raisins, which are tunnel dried and more tangy and plump, and regular dark sun dried raisins if we use turkey thighs)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons capers
5 bay leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil for cooking the ground pork or turkey
1/2 teaspoon salt, sprinkled on the pork or to taste… you probably don’t need any more salt, since there is a large amount in the capers, olives, and tapenade.
The following seven spices for our Sazon powder:
1 tablespoon ground cumin (lightly pan heated first)
1 tablespoon ground coriander (lightly pan heated first)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon annatto seeds
1 tablespoon dried oregano (we use Greek or Mediterranean oregano, it’s much stronger)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
(You can also purchase Sazon powder from Goya on Amazon, but just be aware that it contains Monosodium Glutamate.)
Cut the onion, bell peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes into one inch chunks and set aside, separately.
In a small pan, gently heat the cumin, annatto and coriander until aromatic and when cooled, grind together, combine with the paprika, black pepper, cayenne, oregano and set aside. This is your Sazon powder, a classic in Cuban cuisine.
Combine the tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, raisins, capers, brine and bay leaves in a bowl and set aside.
In a 12 inch fry or saute pan, or even better a cast iron dutch oven, add the olive oil and crush in the garlic while the oil is still cold. Slowly heat the garlic until is sizzles and is aromatic, now add the onions.
Fry the onions on medium heat until opaque and then add the bell peppers, potatoes and olives, covering the pan.
When the peppers and potatoes are just soft on the outside, about 5 to 6 minutes, add the tomato paste and stir together.
When the paste has darkened, add the ground pork and fry until browned, about 7 minutes.
Sprinkle on the Sazon powder and the olive tapenade, stirring and mixing until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
Add the combined tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, raisins, capers, brine and bay leaves. Now add the chicken broth and simmer on medium/low, uncovered, until married and thickened, about 20 minutes.
Serve with black beans and rice, garnished with cilantro.
We love mangoes and roasted tomatillo salsa in the black beans, and we sometimes put the mangoes and beans directly in this wildly popular Cuban Picadillo feast.
1/2 heaping cup of pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 heaping cup of pitted Chalkidiki olives
2 tablespoons fish sauce (we use Red Boat) or 1 tablespoon anchovy paste or 1 tin of anchovies
2 tablespoons capers
1 lemon, squeezed for the juice
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon crushed hot red peppers
1/4 heaping cup of Italian parsley
Place all the ingredients into a small food processor and chop on pulse until the olives are roughly cut into small pieces, but not so much that it becomes a paste. Allow the tapenade to be slightly chunky, so that the separate flavors come through. Enjoy!